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Physiological responses to fire fighting activities


Eight professional fire fighters participated in six fire fighting scenarios at a training facility. Data on heart rate (HR), rectal temperature (Tre), and skin temperatures at the chest and thigh were collected using a portable data acquisition system. Average HR ranged from 122 to 151 beats · min−1 during the six scenarios. Detailed analyses indicated that HR and Tre increases are related to both the physical and environmental stresses of the various activities carried out. The most demanding activity, that of building search and victim rescue, resulted in an average HR of 153 beats · min−1 and Tre rise of 1.3‡ C, while the least demanding activity, that of the crew captain who directs the fire fighting, resulted in an average HR of only 122 beats · min−1 and a Tre rise of only 0.3‡ C. This study shows that fire fighting is strenuous work for those directly entering a building and performing related duties, but that the physical demands of other activities are considerably less. The results further suggest that heat strain injuries in fire fighters could perhaps be reduced by rotating duties frequently with other crew members performing less stressful work.

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Romet, T.T., Frim, J. Physiological responses to fire fighting activities. Europ. J. Appl. Physiol. 56, 633–638 (1987).

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Key words

  • Fire fighter
  • Heat stress
  • Heart rate
  • Body temperatures
  • Portable data acquisition systems